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Beyond classroom learning: Exploring the family mathematics practices of Black elementary children


Over the past few decades, scholars have argued that the knowledge valued in mathematics classrooms has left many students of color at the margins of mathematical expertise. We know that many Black children have struggled to perform in traditional mathematics classrooms, however, we know less about the mathematics they learn in their broader communities. Black children are far too often presumed to lack home educational resources, in general, including resources in support of mathematics. In this dissertation, I challenged deficit beliefs about Black children and their families by identifying and exploring their family math practices through the perspective of funds of knowledge and situated learning theoretical frameworks. Using semi-structured interviews, participant observations, and document/artifact collection, I explored the mathematical learning opportunities of eight, elementary school Black children and their families. I identified Black parents’ beliefs about mathematics and mathematics learning, and analyzed the interactions between children and their parents to examine the ways the children’s mathematical knowledge and identities were reinforced during home activities, including games, homework, sports, and household routines. The parents in the study employed various approaches to support their children’s mathematical learning in formal and informal ways; they also used four distinct strategies to support their children’s mathematical identities, including a race-conscious approach. Findings suggest that while some children recognized problem-solving in their informal activities, interview and observation data suggest many of the children in this study struggled to ‘find the math’ in informal activities, regardless of their level of success with school-based mathematics. Understanding Black children’s home mathematical resources and their beliefs about real-world mathematics can inform culturally relevant pedagogy in the classroom. This study also contributes to scholarship on Black parent engagement and extends the literature on mathematical funds of knowledge in the Black community.

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